Clementa C. Pinckney

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Clementa C. Pinckney
Reverend Clementa Pinckney.jpg
Member of the South Carolina Senate
from the 45th district
In office
January 2001 – June 17, 2015
Preceded byMcKinley Washington
Succeeded byMargie Bright Matthews
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives
from the 122nd district
In office
January 1997 – January 2001
Preceded byJuanita Mitchell White
Succeeded byThayer Rivers
Personal details
Clementa Carlos Pinckney

(1973-07-30)July 30, 1973
Beaufort, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedJune 17, 2015(2015-06-17) (aged 41)
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
Manner of deathAssassination through terrorism
Resting placeSaint James Cemetery
Marion, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseJennifer Benjamin
Alma materAllen University (BA)
University of South Carolina (MPA)
Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (M.Div.)
Wesley Theological Seminary
ChurchEmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church
Senior posting
PostSenior pastor (2010–2015)

Clementa Carlos "Clem"[1][2] Pinckney (July 30, 1973 – June 17, 2015) was an American politician and pastor who served as a Democratic member of the South Carolina Senate, representing the 45th District from 2000 until his death in 2015. He was previously a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1997 through 2000.

Pinckney was born to a large family with six siblings in Beaufort, South Carolina. He began preaching at church at age thirteen and was appointed pastor at age eighteen. He graduated from several universities, including Allen University, and the University of South Carolina. He was also educated at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, and the Wesley Theological Seminary.

In 1996, Pinckney became the youngest African-American man elected to the South Carolina General Assembly at the age of twenty-three. While serving in the Senate, Pinckney was an advocate for civil rights. He prominently supported body cameras after the death of Walter Scott, and gained controversy after holding a rally about his death. He also unsuccessfully proposed a bill that would display the Pan-African flag at the South Carolina State House.

Pinckney was also a senior pastor at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston. In 2015, Pinckney was assassinated by white supremacist Dylann Roof in a racially motivated terrorist mass shooting at an evening Bible study at his church. President Barack Obama delivered the eulogy and sang "Amazing Grace" at Pinckney's funeral nine days later.

Early life and education[edit]

Clementa Carlos Pinckney was born on July 30, 1973 in Beaufort, South Carolina. His mother, Theopia Stevenson Aikens (née Brooms; 1945–2005), was an early childhood development educator, and his father, John Pinckney, was an auto mechanic.[3][4][5][6] Pinckney had at least six brothers and sisters.[7] He began preaching at his church at age 13 and, by age 18, he was appointed pastor.[8]

Pinckney's maternal family, the Stevensons, has many generations of pastors in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC). His maternal great-grandfather, Reverend Lorenzo Stevenson, brought a lawsuit against the state's Democratic Party to end unintegrated primaries. During the Civil Rights Movement, Pinckney's maternal uncle, Reverend Levern Stevenson, worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to desegregate school buses, and sued South Carolina Governor John C. West to create single-member districts to help elect more blacks into the South Carolina General Assembly.[9]

Pinckney's paternal family are based in the Beaufort, South Carolina area and may be descendants of slaves owned by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, who was instrumental in framing the United States Constitution and was part of the Middleton-Rutledge-Pinckney family, a family that included many politicians. The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is where the plantation was located.[10][11]

Pinckney went to Jasper County High School,[4] where he was elected class president for two years.[12] He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Allen University in 1995 and went on to obtain a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of South Carolina in 1999.[8][13] He then received a Master of Divinity degree from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.[14][15] Pinckney was a student at Wesley Theological Seminary pursuing a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree at the time of his death.[16]


Religious career[edit]

Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, SC.

Pinckney preached in Beaufort, Charleston, and Columbia.[17] He became pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2010.[9][18] As part of his work, Pinckney oversaw 17 churches in the area.[12]

In his leadership position at Mother Emanuel, Pinckney followed in the footsteps of Reverend Richard H. Cain and other AME church leaders, continuing a tradition of religious leaders serving in political positions with a focus on political activism in service to his community.[19] Pinckney said he felt a deep connection between serving his community in politics in complement to his ministry work.[20] Historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. featured Pinckney in interviews for his award-winning PBS series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.[21][22]

Pinckney was among several South Carolina pastors to hold rallies after the shooting of Walter Scott in 2015, attracting some local controversy.[8]

Legislative career[edit]

Pinckney was first elected to the South Carolina General Assembly in 1996 at the age of 23, becoming the youngest African American elected as a South Carolina state legislator.[23] He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives until being elected to the South Carolina Senate in 2000. Pinckney was a Democrat[24] and was a member of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus.[25] Pinckney represented Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper Counties in South Carolina.[26] At the time of his death, he was on the following Committees: Banking and Insurance, Corrections and Penology, Education, Finance, and Medical Affairs.[6]

Body cameras[edit]

Governor Nikki Haley signs legislation requiring South Carolina police officers to wear body cameras.

As a state senator, Pinckney pushed for laws[27] to require police and other law enforcement officials to wear body cameras after Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was shot eight times in the back by a police officer in North Charleston.[8][28][29] In April 2015, Pinckney gave an impassioned speech[30][31] on the topic at the South Carolina Senate, citing the fact that national news had come to North Charleston because of the video tape of the incident.[32]

Pan-African flag[edit]

In 2001, Pinckney, along with senator Maggie Glover, proposed a bill for the Pan-African flag to be displayed at the South Carolina State House. The bill planned for the South Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee to hang up the flag.[33]

Murder and funeral[edit]

Barack Obama delivers the eulogy at the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney 2015-06-26

On the night of June 17, 2015, Pinckney was killed in the Charleston church shooting.[12] He spent the earlier part of that day campaigning with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Charleston.[34] That evening, he led a Bible study and prayer session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where he was senior pastor. The shooter, Dylann Roof, specifically asked for Pinckney and later opened fire on the congregation, killing Pinckney and eight others.[35] While the FBI investigated the mass shooting as a hate crime,[8][36] many others[by whom?]considered the attack a racially motivated act of terrorism, and criticized law enforcement and the media for not labeling it as such.[37][38]

On June 24, 2015, there was a public viewing of Pinckney's casket in the rotunda lobby of the State Capitol Senate Chamber where Pinckney served in the South Carolina legislature, and where his body lay in state.[39][40] Public viewings were held at St. John AME Church in Ridgeland, South Carolina, and Mother Emanuel in Charleston, South Carolina. A funeral was held on June 26, 2015, at the College of Charleston in TD Arena, which was filled up to maximum capacity,[41] necessitating a viewing center with a video feed at the Charleston Museum.[42][43][44] President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Jill Biden, among many other politicians and public figures, attended the funeral, with Obama giving the eulogy.[45][46][47][48] During the eulogy, Obama sang the opening stanza of "Amazing Grace".[49]


As a result of the shooting, in July 2015, the South Carolina Legislature enacted legislation to take down the Confederate flag flying in front of the South Carolina State House and move it to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.[50][51] The shooter had previously posed in front of and posted images of a similar flag on his website. Pinckney's widow attended the session during the final vote to thank her husband's colleagues for their support.[52]

Portrait of slain South Carolina Senator, Clementa Pinckeny, in the South Carolina Senate chamber.

In June 2015, the family of Pinckney established the Clementa C. Pinckney Foundation to support poor families in the South Carolina Lowcountry region. Jennifer Pinckney, his wife, Senator Gerald Malloy, who served with Pinckney in the Senate, and Reverend Kylon Jerome Middleton, Ph.D., Pinckney's best friend, established the foundation in Pinckney's honor to support educational, health, pastoral training, and charitable causes.[53] In July 2015, Mother Emanuel, in response to anonymous donations of more than $3 million,[54] established The Reverend Pinckney Scholarship Fund, which was created to support education scholarship for church members, victims of the shooting and their extended families.[55] The initial fund was overseen by Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr, historian and educator Henry Louis Gates Jr and investment banker William M. Lewis Jr.[54]

In August 2015, the Charleston County School District decided to name new Charleston County middle school Simmons-Pinckney Middle School, in honor of both Pinckney and blacksmith Philip Simmons.[56]

On August 8, 2019, the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a resolution to recognize Clementa C. Pinckney and the Emanuel 9 as martyrs on their liturgical calendar and declare June 17 as "a day of repentance in the ELCA for the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9."[57][58] At the time of the shooting, Dylann Roof was a member of an ELCA congregation.[59] The Rev. Clementa Pinckney was a graduate of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, a seminary of the ELCA.[59]

Personal life[edit]

In 1999, Pinckney married Jennifer Pinckney (née Benjamin) in Augusta, Georgia. They met while he was at Allen University and she was at the University of South Carolina.[60] The couple lived in Ridgeland, South Carolina with their two daughters, Eliana Yvette Pinckney[61] and Malana Elise Pinckney.[62][6][63] Pinckney was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[64] Pinckney was named in honor of the baseball player Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates due to his mother's love of baseball.[4] During his eulogy, multiple friends and family pronounced his first name as "Clemen-tay".[62] Pinckney is the cousin of the businessman and conservative commentator Armstrong Williams.[65]

Pinckney was buried in Marion, South Carolina[66] at the St. James AME Cemetery.[7][67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Johnson, Jason (June 19, 2015). "The Clem Pinckney I Knew: Personal & Political Assassination in Charleston". NBC News. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  2. ^ Weisman, Jonathan (June 18, 2015). "Killings Add a Painful Chapter to Storied History of Charleston Church". The New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  3. ^ "Theopia Stevenson Aikens - United States Social Security Death Index". FamilySearch. 2005.
  4. ^ a b c Sack, Kevin (June 25, 2015). "Clementa Pinckney, Called to Pulpit and Politics in a Life Cut Short". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Theopia Aikens Obituary". The Post and Courier.
  6. ^ a b c "Senator Clementa C. Pinckney - Member Biography". South Carolina Legislature. Archived from the original on June 20, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Clementa Carlos Pinckney: Obituary". The State. June 24, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e Cleary, Tom (June 18, 2015). "Clementa Pinckney Dead: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Parker, Adam (November 28, 2010). "Leading from the pulpit". The Post and Courier.
  10. ^ "Pinckney Island - National Wildlife Refuge". U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  11. ^ "Pinckney Island: National Wildlife Refuge - South Carolina -- About the Refuge". U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Von Drehle, David; Newton-Small, Jay; Rhodan, Maya (November 12, 2015). "Howd Do You Forgive a Murder?". Time.
  13. ^ "Clementa Pinckney's Biography". Vote Smart.
  14. ^ Diebel, Matthew (June 18, 2015). "Slain S.C. pastor Clementa Pinckney was 'a giant, a legend'". USA Today.
  15. ^ "Reverend Clementa Pinckney - Pastor's Page". Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Archived from the original on August 21, 2015.
  16. ^ McAllister-Wilson, David (June 18, 2015). "Mourning the Loss of the Rev. Pinckney and Church Members". Wesley Seminary. Archived from the original on June 19, 2015.
  17. ^ Lurye, Rebecca (June 18, 2015). "Sen. Clementa Pinckney mourned in Jasper County hometown". The Beaufort Gazette. Archived from the original on June 19, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  18. ^ Parker, Adam (November 28, 2010). "Mother Emanuel AME pastor follows in footsteps of 19th-century minister-lawmaker". The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  19. ^ Calvert, Scott (June 18, 2015). "Slain Pastor Clementa Pinckney's Mission Suited His Storied Church". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  20. ^ Rowe, Charles R. (June 25, 2015). "Opinion: Editorials: Clementa C. Pinckney". The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  21. ^ Gates, Jr., Henry Louis (June 18, 2015). "Henry Louis Gates: If Clementa Pinckney Had Lived". The New York Times. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  22. ^ "Henry Louis Gates Remembers Rev. Pinckney". PBS. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  23. ^ "Local News - 20 Under 40: Clementa Pinckney 12/29/99". Savannah Morning News. December 29, 1999. Archived from the original on June 27, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  24. ^ "Our members - Senator Clementa Pinckney: District 45 – Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton & Jasper Counties". South Carolina State Democratic Caucus. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  25. ^ "Member Details: Senator Clementa C. Pinckney". South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  26. ^ "South Carolina Senate District 45 - Map" (PDF). South Carolina Legislature. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  27. ^ McLeod, Mayci (April 13, 2015). "Vigil for Walter Scott: Prayers and a Demand for Change". WCBD News 2. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  28. ^ McLeod, Mayci (April 12, 2015). "Vigil for Walter Scott: Prayers and a Demand for Change". WCBD-TV. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  29. ^ Boughton, Melissa (June 3, 2015). "Bishops bring together congregation in North Charleston to address police shootings". The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  30. ^ Pinckney, Clementa C. (April 14, 2015). "Remarks by Senator Pinckney". South Carolina Senate. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  31. ^ Pinckney, Clementa C. (May 5, 2015). "Journal of the Senate of the State of South Carolina: Addendum: Remarks by Senator Pinckney". South Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  32. ^ Lee, Jaeah (June 18, 2015). "Murdered State Senator Clementa Pinckney Made This Haunting Speech About Walter Scott". Mother Jones. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  33. ^ "Senate Judiciary Committee Opens New Flag Controversy". The Times and Democrat. Orangeburg, South Carolina. February 28, 2001. Retrieved January 9, 2020 – via
  34. ^ Sarlan, Benjy. "Nine dead in Charleston church massacre". MSNBC. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  35. ^ Corsaniti, Nick; Pérez-Peña, Richard; Alvarez, Lizette (June 18, 2015). "Charleston Church Shooting Leaves 9 Dead; Gunman Is Sought". The New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  36. ^ "Tragedy strikes Charleston, South Carolina". MSNBC. June 18, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  37. ^ Cheney-Rice, Zak. "There's One Word the Media Isn't Using When Talking About the Charleston Shooter". Archived from the original on June 20, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  38. ^ Workneh, Lilly (June 18, 2015). "Why Recognizing The Charleston Church Shooting As An Act Of Racially Motivated Terrorism Is Only The First Step". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  39. ^ Associated Press (June 24, 2015). "Viewing Held for Pinckney". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  40. ^ Knapp, Andrew; Roldan, Cynthia (June 25, 2015). "Thousands pay respects to slain pastor lying in state under Capitol dome". The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  41. ^ Parker, Adam; Smith, Glenn; Berry Hawes, Jennifer (June 26, 2015). "Mourners, politicians reflect as they gather for Pinckney funeral". The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  42. ^ Staff and agencies in South Carolina (June 21, 2015). "Charleston shooting: Clementa Pinckney's casket to lie at State House". The Guardian. The Associated Press. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  43. ^ Monk, John (June 20, 2015). "Pinckney's casket to be in State House Wednesday; other funeral plans announced". The State. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  44. ^ CBS/AP (June 26, 2015). "Obama among thousands at funeral for Charleston shooting victim". CBS News. Associated Press. Retrieved June 27, 2015.
  45. ^ Baker, Peter (June 22, 2015). "Obama and Biden to Attend Funeral for Clementa Pinckney". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  46. ^ Staff (June 25, 2015). "Charleston police asking for patience, planning during Sen. Pinckney's funeral". The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  47. ^ Obama, Barack (June 26, 2015). "Remarks by the President in Eulogy for The Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney" (PDF). The Post and Courier. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  48. ^ Obama, Barack (June 26, 2015). "Obama speaks at Clementa Pinckney funeral – read the eulogy in full". The Guardian. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  49. ^ "Boehner Joins Obama on Air Force One". The New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  50. ^ "S 0897 General Bill". South Carolina Legislature. July 7, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  51. ^ Roldan, Cynthia (July 8, 2015). "'New day in South Carolina': House votes to take down Confederate flag". The Post and Courier. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  52. ^ Roldan, Cynthia; Knich, Diane (July 7, 2015). "Confederate flag's defenders to make last stand in House". The Post and Courier. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  53. ^ Gatson, Judi (July 30, 2015). "South Carolina Comes Together". WIS TV. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  54. ^ a b Blinder, Alan (July 2, 2015). "Anonymous Donors Give Over $3 Million for Charleston Scholarship Fund". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  55. ^ Vaughn, Barbara (July 2, 2015). "Donors Announce Reverend Pinckney Scholarship Fund". City of Charleston, South Carolina. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  56. ^ Schmeyer, Elsa (August 15, 2015). "Lowcountry school name to honor local blacksmith, Emanuel 9 victim". WCSC-TV. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  57. ^ "Establishing June 17 as Emanuel 9 Commemoration and Day of Repentance" (PDF). Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  58. ^ "Commemoration of the Emanuel Nine — June 17". Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  59. ^ a b "ELCA leaders express grief over shooting in South Carolina". Retrieved July 17, 2020.
  60. ^ "Wedding bells don't signal end of Pinckney's political career". Savannah Morning News. October 20, 1999. Archived from the original on July 12, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  61. ^ Matthews Jr., Senator John W. (December 4, 2009). "S. 912". South Carolina General Assembly.
  62. ^ a b The White House (June 26, 2015). "President Obama Delivers a Eulogy in Honor of Reverend Pinckney". The White House. Retrieved June 26, 2015.
  63. ^ Many South Carolina Senators (May 13, 2009). "S. 825". South Carolina General Assembly.
  64. ^ Watch The Yard (June 18, 2015). "Alpha Phi Alpha Brother, Rev Clementa C. Pinckney Among Those Killed In Charleston Church Shooting". Watch The Yard. Archived from the original on June 19, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  65. ^ Williams, Armstrong. "Mass killings of Americans backfire on evil, hate, fear". The Washington Times. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  66. ^ McFadden, Naeem (June 26, 2015). "Hundreds of Marion County residents pay tribute to Sen. Pinckney". The Morning News. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
  67. ^ "Rev Clementa Carlos Pinckney". Find A Grave. Retrieved November 12, 2015.

External links[edit]